Text Messaging Helps Reunite Families

Text messaging was the only form of communication Tina Royal-Reynard of New Orleans had with missing loved ones. Conventional cell service was interrupted for people using the New Orleans area code.

Tina's cell phone is filled with various messages she sent and received while trying to reunite with parents, in-laws, and her sisters. Tina recalled, "I'm texting everybody in the phone book with a cell. I'm talking about the hairdresser. I'm talking about co-workers. I'm talking about anybody and everybody you can leave numbers with."

A quarter of American adults who have cell phones have used text messaging. More than half the users are ages 18-27. Emergency preparedness coordinators say it's the best way to communicate during a disaster.

The persistence paid off. Her father-in-law was finally found in Houston. Her mother-in-law was in Austin. The couple got separated during a hospital evacuation. The brightest reunion for Tina was with her twin sister, Christina.

Christina Royal said, "I was excited. I wanted to talk to my mama and my sisters. I still don't know where a lot of people are at, but I'm safe." Christina was evacuated by a rescue boat. She spent one deplorable night in the Superdome before leaving on her own for a bridge. She was then taken to the New Orleans Convention Center. Finally, she connected with a family member so arrangements could be made for her and a cousin to be picked up on another bridge.

Most family members are together, living with a friend in Nacogdoches. They still have missing loved ones who Tina hopes to find soon. "If I think of somebody else to text, I'll text them. Please call me back if you get a text."